Courtesy of Kate Gannon:

Twas a beautiful full moon lit night guiding intrepid cyclists from London Fields to the Suffolk coast.  It was of course the Dunwich Dynamo which takes place each year on the full moon nearest the summer solstice.  There were four adventurers from Verulam CC -  Graham Ricketts on his winter bike and panniers full of food for the 120 mile journey,  Philip Mann on his 3 speed Sturmey Archer Dawes Diplomat, Josh Mann looking very cool in skinny jeans on  his fixie and Kate Gannon on an ancient hefty steel Raleigh Pioneer, reserved only for pootling around St. Albans.  Each bike was well over 30 years old.  We didn’t see Graham but got a call at 4:30 am to say he had arrived at the beach, way ahead of us and had polished off a full English breakfast.

We perhaps weren’t the best prepared – as we had had 2 pub stops before leaving London Fields ( well we had no bottle cages, what else could we do), dressed in our everyday clothes with flat shoes for our flat pedals, and no helmets though  if you looked carefully you may have seen the glow from a Garmin. It’s surprising how liberating it all felt to escape the lycra, carbon, aluminium temptation and go old skool and we got kudos from the lycra crowd as we overtook a surprising number of them on the hills.  

We left around 10 pm, later than most, and hit Epping Forest in what felt like total darkness.  It was quite scary as the cars whizzed past and there were no other cyclists lighting our way.   Eventually we found small towns with streetlights and then at last the calm of the country.  The moon was hiding for the first part of the night and then came out to light our way through the winding lanes of Essex and Suffolk and we at last found that comforting sight of red lights from fellow cyclists.

We got cheers from the locals and found tea lights in hedges to help us along the route. Pubs stayed open and served tea and coffee with donations to charity. We found another pub doing a BBQ at 1:30 am and consumed rather overpriced hotdogs, and in Sudbury the Fire Service had a big BBQ for us.    I was feeling a bit dozey on the bike at around 4:00 am butfound a tea stop in the middle of nowhere and had bacon rolls and 2 cups of tea.  We set off again knowing that we had broken the back of it and the sun was coming up to warm us for the last 40 miles.    Another enterprising lady was sat outside her house making cheese and pickle sandwiches as she always got woken by the cyclists going past all night so thought she should join in on the action.

At 8:30am we rolled onto the beach where what looked like thousands of cyclists were all parked up and having 40 winks before the journey back.    I thought we were one of the last to arrive but there were lots of cyclists streaming in behind us while we took a refreshing  dip in the sea. Good for the muscles you know. I got a puncture (well the valve separated from the tube) in the car park, as we left – brilliant timing as no one wants to fix puncture in the dark, especially when you need a spanner to take the wheel off.

The Dunwich Dynamo is one of those events that you look back on with real fondness – although at 5 am you’d give anything for a quick kip.  It has it all,  adventure, danger, romance, camaraderie, cheering locals, a helluva lot of bacon sandwiches, tea, sunset, sunrise and a dip in the sea.   We even saw our very own Mike 'broomwagon' Graves in the car park, taking people back home ( or was that the hallucinations caused by lack of sleep).  Fellow cyclists are really friendly and chilled and everyone seemed to forget or had never heard of Strava segments.

For Phil and myself we had already cycled back from the beach to St. Albans on Friday having driven the van out for our return journey, making it a 240 mile round trip on 2 wheels.   It makes me more in awe of Shu Pillinger and her achievement of becoming the first British woman to complete the Race Across America, cycling 3000miles in 12 days. Graham cycled back to Ipswich to catch the train to London, but didn’t reckon on a bridge strike resulting in a bus service between Colchester and Chelmsford, cue weird looks from bus passengers wondering why 20 blokes with bikes (and beers) were getting on board.

The Dunwich Dynamo XXIV will be on 16/17 July 2016. Perhaps we'll see you there?